Friday, August 4, 2017

SPORTS and COOKING in the Family

I AM fortunate that my birthing and flow out of innocence have been blessed with a sportscentric and cookery crazy family. My father is a hyper soul whose ageless chakras know no respite. That's him playing chess with a tribal leader in Ifugao mountains back home. Dad would travel rough roads amidst typhoons and countryside strife just to hang with his superhomeys. And play chess and backyard basketball. Paulo built a martial arts gym at the back of the ancestral house when we were kids and, with Uncle Jimmy, taught us and other kids in the `hood karate, judo and arnis. (No, dad didn't teach us the Valentino lover-boy moves, we were just grade school kids, ha!)

          Mom used to manage a bowling alley in a mining village where we once lived so we learned how to play it when were just little kids. All nine of us siblings, especially the boys, got into sports early. We didn't just play them, we also organized summer sports events as well. Putting up basketball events in the community was my brother Sonny's summer madness so much so that his first job as a teenager was as sports organizer for the city government's anti-drugs program. Two of my bros got some kind of school tuition privilege playing basketball. One commits to village-level sports clinics, pro bono. My older brother Alberto is a golf champ but not like PGA kinda, but still a champ. He also won bowling tournaments when he was working in Saudi Arabia. 
       Cousins and a niece (CD) are chess champs in regional school events. My son Duane, who is a professional artist and writer, is also a mixed martial arts fighter and now a trainer. Nephews got athletic scholarships and stuff, and sports still meld the family today as in the past. When we argued as siblings (featuring second youngest bro Allan The Enforcer) and cousins, dad would usher us to the punching bag and get the rage off our chest in the gym, or let us play basketball and sweat it out. Definitely no unfriending.

And cooking. My youngest bro Alvaro was on national ABS-CBN television showing off his culinary arts prowess, in a gig that was booked by my daughter Donna. Alvaro was also featured on TV in re his free summer sports camp/s. Whenever we gather (which is often), a top competitive flair is who's going to be the day's (or weekend's) chef. Of course on my last visit to Las Vegas to see family last winter, I was waylaid in the kitchen by my eldest sis Tess, sis in law Ate Rezy, bro Alberto, and daughter Daphne. My Marseille-Style with Beurre Blanc Shrimp Stew was no match to Tess' Spanish Callos Royale. I need more practice, I guess. So I simply, humbly gave way and just washed dirty plates and pots and pans and mopped the kitchen floor. At least, I am still the Kickass Dishwasher! Uh huh.

SOME COOKING thoughts and ruminations.

THINK of another human activity that is closer to sex or lovemaking? Cooking. Why? Well, it's all about touch, smell, feel, sound, taste—all senses come into play. And it's very individual and personal. Cooking is rhythm, like dancing, like bedroom scrimmage—it's cadence, flow, vibe. So cooking is best when you really know the person you are feeding.

IT is always tough to cook for kids. I had to come up with a few kidstuff BS to be able to convince this sweet little girl to dig in my spaghetti magic. I tried, “Santa Claus dropped by today to give me this recipe...” and “I cooked this just for you because I know you love spaghetti.” But what worked was, “That cheese on top of your spanghetti is called Hello Kitty Cheese!” I remember when I was a kid myself, I won't touch dinner unless there's broth on the side, or I never ate any food that is dark (like black beans, chocolate cake etc). My eldest daughter Donna refused to eat any food that didn't pass her olfactory standard, and well, once I've set her plate in front of her, nobody touches that plate—otherwise, she won't touch that food and dinner is over!

COOKING is personal—it’s like poetry, like sexual intimacy. Cooking flows from your inner self and into the stove. It is about smell, taste, sight, hearing. Sensitivity. Touch and feel. When you feel like writing, write; want to cook, cook; feel like making love, do it—these are the best moments to flow… Sexual intimacy or the cooking process—it’s communication between you and your senses, sensuality/sensitivity channeled to your partner. If you don’t know your inner truths—it’s not possible to project it, or derive pleasure from sharing it.

I WOULD love to cook for you...” That offer always, instinctively, comes out of my mouth—when I meet new friends. Food could be the most accessible and most convenient gesture of human connection. I eat whatever is offered me by friends, relatives or and even strangers. It is a natural reflex... Food breaks ice and starts conversations on a freewheeling, relaxed mode. Food also loosens up supposedly super-serious, ultra-dramatic, nerve-wracking conversations. I always say, if we have food on the table and we are all having fun eating—there's not much room to argue about anything at all. In fact, when the food is so good—everybody's silent. Living good, loving good, eating good.

I ALWAYS nurtured an indulgent fascination with feeding people. Eating is human right as well as living imperative, and food is as basic as shelter and education. Yet I get the heat from vegetarian friends when I say that mere contemplation of a life without meat is a luxury, a romantic snobbery by the affluent first-worlder. Truth is, the world's poor doesn't feast on dead flesh—they eat whatever is available so they could live another day. Over all, rich nations eat much more meat than poor ones, and raising animals takes more agricultural resources than raising crops--so less affluent people eat less meat. Even if I maintain a non-meat diet all my life – when I go out there and see starving humanity, I will still feed them with whatever is called food. Food keeps people alive. When it comes to eating, my logic is gut-level.

MY cooking reflex is random but calculated, non-systematic but adaptive. How is that? First, I don't religiously follow recipes—I just basically refer to them as “guides” or motivational patterns. The most important aspect of cooking is the significance of feeding people, of knowing individual tastes: what do they wish to eat, what are their preferences, ingredients/spices/herbs that they avoid etc. I am very confident that whatever foodstuff, condiments, herbs etc are available in the fridge, cupboard, garden—I can whip out a good meal from those. Cooking is like playing music—you fit in, fill in the blanks, jam in the vibe, work it out as the beat flows. Art is never prearranged. Cooking is art.